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Grenfell Health keeps Virtue Kean's last remaining mural at St. Anthony hospital


Virtue Kean did several murals and paintings depicting classic cartoon characters

ST. ANTHONY, N.L. —

The paintings of Virtue Kean have a colourful legacy at the hospital in St. Anthony.
Kean’s cartoon murals at Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital are a testament to the St. Anthony woman’s creativity, compassion and care.
And one of those murals will remain at the hospital for good.
On July 26, Charles S. Curtis hosted a mural signing with Kean and her family.
Kean placed her signature on her last remaining mural at the hospital, a painting depicting Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
With the signing of the mural, it became official that it will continue to stand at the hospital to honour the local artist.
Kean had completed this, and other murals, during her time as the play therapist at the hospital’s pediatric unit from 1974 to 1989.
During those days, sick children, from Harbour Deep to Nain and everywhere in between, sometimes even the Quebec North Shore, came to St. Anthony for care.
In her job, Kean, who was known as the “play lady” entertained, provided activities and helped provide non-medical care for these children who were far from home, some of them spending months at the hospital.  
As part of her work, she did several murals and paintings to, as she says, “brighten up the place” for the children.
The paintings depicted such beloved cartoon characters as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pinocchio, Sylvester the Cat and many more.
“I tried to brighten the place up for the kids,” she told The Northern Pen. “They’d be able go over there and look at that and they knew the characters, so it meant something to them.”
Kean simply picked up a pencil and, using a book of drawings as her guide, drew all of the murals freehand.
Then she borrowed paints from hospital maintenance to fill in the colour and make Mickey, Snow White and their friends truly come to life.
She says sometimes nurses would help out and she credits one med student who helped with some of the painting.
The paintings brought great joy to the many children who passed through the hospital in those days.
In January 1989, Kean was finished as the “play lady” and was transferred to the health records department as outpatient department receptionist.
She stayed there until she retired in 2003.
Later, the hospital did renovations and painted over most of her murals.
However, before they did, Labrador-Grenfell Health allowed her to keep one mural of her own choosing, “to remember her contribution and the many children who found comfort in it.”
Kean decided the mural depicting Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would stay.
She says she chose that painting because of its popularity.
“A lot of people liked that one, so I just left it there,” she said. “There’d be different people coming in, visiting patients (who liked it), and a lot of staff used to like it.
“It’s nice,” she added, discussing LGH’s decision to keep the mural. “To have something left there.”
stephen.roberts@thenorthernpen.ca

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